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Concealed weapons bill advances on strength of GOP firepower
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Rep. Lynda Boudreau, R-Faribault, carried the gun debate on the House floor. (House Radio/TV)
The Minnesota House has voted in favor of a bill that would change Minnesota's handgun-permitting process. House leadership used a parliamentary maneuver to force the Senate to vote on the bill. Supporters want to make changes to current law because they say local law enforcement has too much discretion over who receives a permit to carry a handgun. Opponents say the bill would allow almost any Minnesotan over the age of 21 to carry a firearm and would make the state more dangerous.

St. Paul, Minn. — The House passed the bill on an 88-46 vote. Both supporters and opponents say their vote came down to personal safety.

Opponents say more people will carry guns, which will make the state more dangerous. Rep. Fran Bradley, R-Rochester, who voted in favor of the bill, was among the supporters who say the bill would let law-abiding Minnesotans protect themselves.

"For the person who's carrying legally, that person is trained, who's had background checks, who's got this permit legally and is a law-abiding citizen. As a matter fact, to be frank, the fact that there's a few of those people peppered around is reassuring to me because there's finally some folks that I can depend on that may come to my protection," he said.

Rep. Linda Boudreau, R-Faribault, says she's proposing the bill because current law is unfair. She says her bill would require local law enforcement to issue a permit to carry unless the applicant has been convicted of a felony, has mental health problems or is a danger to themselves or others. She says the bill would forbid guns on school property and daycare facilities.

Boudreau says permit holders would have the ability to store their guns in the trunk of their cars when on school property.

"The bill does not jeopardize the safety of Minnesotans of any age," she said. "Shall issue, conceal and carry has not contributed to an increase in crime in any of the 34 other states that now have enacted it. It has not caused road rage shoot outs or any of the other calimitous situations raised by our opponents."

Supporters of the bill say permit holders can't carry a weapon while under the influence of alcohol. They also say it would allow employers, public colleges and universities to restrict their employees and students from carrying guns on the property. It would also allow private businesses to forbid permit holders from entering their establishments if they post a sign forbidding guns.

Lawmakers voted for an amendment that would change current law to forbid anyone convicted of a violent felony from carrying a firearm from 10 years to a lifetime. Opponents, however, say the bill is still a step backward.

"This is not a conceal and carry bill. This is really a conceal and kill bill," Rep. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park.

He says more guns means more violence. He and other opponents proposed ten amendements that would forbid permit holders from carrying a gun on college campuses, in sporting complexes, movie theaters and playhouses. Latz says he thinks the bill would mean more gunshot-related injuries if it's passed into law.

"This is a radical bill that takes us miles and miles away from a low crime state. It could dramatically increase crime, crimes of passion," he said.

The House attached the gun permit measure onto a Senate bill that would make technical changes to the Department of Natural Resources. The parliamentary move now forces the DFL-controlled Senate to either vote in favor of the bill or send it to a conference committee. The House used a similar move to get the Senate to vote on a bill that would require women to wait 24 hours before having an abortion.

Rep. Mark Olson, R-Big Lake, says supporters of these measures need to resort to these tactics to get the Senate to take a vote on a bill that the majority of the Senate supports.

"Your colleagues in the Senate are acting as despots. This system has become a despotic system. Concentration of the power prevents the will of the people from ever getting a hearing," Olson said.

Sen. Jane Ranum, DFL-Minneapolis, warned her colleagues that the House would try to dictate the Senate agenda. She says House Republican leaders apparently believe the end justifies the means, and are willing to try any tactic to force a Senate vote.

"Is the Minnesota Senate going to recognize... that that was just the first bill? That they're going to try it and see how many times they're going to pick off a few votes of Democrats -- Democrats and Republicans -- and have the House of Representatives in fact running the House and the Senate," she said.

Gov. Pawlenty says he supports the gun permit bill and would sign it if it reaches his desk.

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